The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer took questions from readers in today's OKC Central Live Chat. You can join Steve's Q&As on Fridays at 10 a.m. and submit your questions about the happenings in and around downtown Oklahoma City. Read the complete chat transcript here.
How do you feel about modern developments in a community like the Paseo where primarily all of the buildings were built no later than the 1950s? And how do you feel the uptown development will affect the Paseo?
I think the Uptown development is great for the Paseo. The area is governed by design ordinances so I'm not too worried about projects that appearance wise might not be a good fit.
Do you think a craft beer restaurant will fit in to that area nicely with Empire being right next door, Saints and The Mule down the street?
Yes I do, and more importantly, the smartest mind in the city when it comes to urban core small retail, Allison Bailey, thinks they're a good fit. I can't emphasize enough how much I love this project. The building being redeveloped by David Wanzer was really the last truly unsightly property left along NW 16, and the restoration of the original facade adds a lot of character to the street.
The Plaza District evolved a bit in reverse in that it started out with a great mix of shops and retailers, but always needed a good mix of restaurants and bars. That has now taken place, and I can't imagine a better example of an urban district thriving despite a lack of parking or immediate access to a major traffic corridor. The Plaza District stands as a reminder that if everyone involved is committed to changing the rules of the game, they will win and create a place that is very special.
With the news of the two new places in Plaza, it looks like there is little left to develop, commercially, on 16th street. Do you envision a developer purchasing a swath of the houses west of the 'Plaza core' and rezoning to commercial?
Nope. I don't think the city would allow for such conversions, and I don't think the neighborhood would see it as a healthy change either. I do see a couple of places where the tenant mix could easily be "upgraded." There also are a couple of vacant lots and mixed properties where such development can take place as well.
What do you think will be the impact on the OCU main campus by the move of the Law School to downtown? Do you think this will take away from the unity of the students at OCU or help OCU to diversify say by adding new degree offerings in the leftover space that is currently occupied by the Law School?
I think the OCU law school students will be every bit as wired in and loyal to the university as those on the main campus. OCU has already indicated this move will allow for expansion of other programs, so I doubt it will really diminish the main campus population. The new law school, meanwhile, will cause a pretty significant transformation of an area that to date had lagged behind the redevelopment of the remainder of Midtown to the west and Automobile Alley to the east. Expect the area to fill in with housing and retail.
Can you explain why NW 10th Street between Klein and Virginia has no buildings on the north side and widens to a divided roadway with a nice wide landscaped median? What's the plan here?
Once upon a time, NW 10 between Western Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenues was an over capacity two-lane street with an assortment of old homes, some nice, some not so nice, on both sides. A bond issue was passed, the city bought out all the homes on the north side of the street and the road was widened. That project left the city with an expanse of property on the north side of the street that it still owns and maintains.
I've seen a development proposal, with renderings, that was pitched to the city that included homes facing the street with garages and driveways built in the rear to a new alley that would serve this development. I could never get any explanation from the city as to why they never seriously entertained this pitch or gave the developers a full hearing. From what I saw and observed, it seemed as if no one at City Hall was even sure who should entertain such a pitch. This was just a year ago, and is one of many times where I've observed how important it is to get a champion in the city staff before attempting a public-private venture. For the life of me, I have no idea why this one didn't fly, and I could never get a good read from those who typically would be involved in considering such deals.
What's to become of Shepherd's Mall?
I don't know. They seem to be managing to find some replacement tenants, but the exodus is of concern and the mall is an important anchor to the area.
Do you think the opening of Bleu Garten will have an impact on H&8th?
Nope. I wondered the same thing, but then I saw how H&8th thrived during a very busy, beautiful Friday night at the Arts Festival nearby. Our city is big enough to provide crowds for multiple venues. I also believe that H&8th is growing to a point where it will simply hook up with Bleu Garten.
What's the latest on the Steel Yard? Any word on the hotel development associated with that project?
The site is progressing, though it hit some additional site clean-up issues as I predicted. Expect news about a Hyatt Place to come out fairly soon.
Do you think that next year's Arts Festival will be primarily contained in the Myriad Gardens?
That's hard to say, because we don't know if the Stage Center site will simply be cleared at that point or if the tower site construction will have begun.
Reports indicate we might be getting a new tower downtown near or next to the Devon tower... True?
Devon has stated they won't be building another tower. But that doesn't mean someone else might not build a tower.
What do you hear about the future of the properties immediately south of Stage Center?
For now, those properties are safe. But I suspect they'll be redeveloped long term.